A note verbale will be sent to Skopje from Athens on Monday, informing Greece’s northern neighbour that the Hellenic Parliament has ratified the Prespes Agreement and the NATO accession protocol that allows it to join the Alliance as North Macedonia, Alternate Foreign Minister George Katrougalos revealed in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) published on Sunday. As of next week, he said, the use of the name “North Macedonia” for the country will be obligatory.
“The Prespes Agreement is explicit and clear on this point. At all international fora, at all international organisations, in bilateral relations and in the interior of the country, for example in all new documents, the neighbouring country will be referred to with the new constitutional name,” he said.
Katrougalos also talked about the prime minister’s recent visit to Turkey, noting that all its objective goals had been achieved in terms of reducing tension in the Aegean and resuming systematic dialogue with Turkey.
He was hopeful regarding a reduction of Turkish provocativeness in the Aegean, noting that the number of violations during the previous week had been the lowest on record for many years, while they had dropped to zero in the two days following the visit.
Talking about Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ visit to the Halki Theological school, the minister noted that “the presence of the prime minister, in itself, but especially his speech and that of the Ecumenical Patriarch, had a special symbolism” and left an important legacy in terms of its reopening in the future. If the School did reopen, Katrougalos noted, “that will show the whole world that Islam and Christianity can coexist peacefully, uniting rather than dividing peoples.”
He said that the Greece-Turkey High-level Cooperation Council and the Greek-Turkish Economic Forum in Thessaloniki will be key elements in efforts for a resumption of dialogue between the two countries, possibly during the first half of the current year, while describing a Thessaloniki-Izmir ferry link in the summer as a “realistic prospect”.
A start on resuming talks is expected to be made next week, Katrougalos noted, when the Greek and Turkish defence ministers meet on the sidelines of a NATO meeting.
On the Cyprus problem, he said the Greek side’s aim was to exploit the progress made in Crans Montana, especially with regard to security issues and the abolition of third-party guarantees.
The full intervew in Greek is available on the Greek website.